A couple wears face coverings Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Portland. The state is struggling with the recent high rate of growth of COVID-19 cases. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Maine is among the states seeing the fastest rate of COVID-19 case growth over the last two weeks as cases continue to climb here amid a national decline.

Infections have continued to surge here in the past few weeks, with 658 new cases reported Thursday. The seven-day average of new infections climbed to 456, more than double what it was in late August.

As of Wednesday, the rate of new COVID-19 infections was increasing faster in Maine compared to any other U.S. state, according to the New York Times, up 59 percent compared to weeks prior. Nationally, the daily case rate declined 8 percent during that time period.

Importantly, Maine’s case levels are still lower than much of the U.S. despite the recent acceleration. Only 12 states have lower case rates than Maine over the past week, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The state with the highest case rate, West Virginia, is seeing infection levels more than three times higher than Maine.

The differing trends may reflect in part the later arrival of the delta variant here. The highly contagious strain became predominant in northeastern states later than the rest of the country, according to a U.S. CDC analysis. Other New England states — including New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts — that have generally had lower case rates and higher vaccination rates, are still seeing cases rise as well.